Managing Projects You Don’t Understand

Posted on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, SEO

Transitioning from an exclusively SEO background to a Project Management position at TSA, I’ve had to take on quite a few projects I don’t fully understand.  Outside of SEO, we have various and sundry ways that our clients engage with us and we are creating new and exciting ways for our clients to market on the web every day.  The end result is a wide variety of services that I’ve never been directly exposed to up until now.  Below, I’ve identified some of the challenges that have come up and have listed how they’ve been addressed.  I hope this is useful for any Internet Marketer interested in embracing new information or a new role.

Identifying Issues

I can tell you just by looking at a client’s website what they need to work on from an SEO perspective: URLs, internal linking, on-page optimization, creating silos, etc.  I wouldn’t say I know as much as some of our gurus, but I can walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.  When it comes to SEM, Display, and Consumer Experience I’m at a bit of a loss.  Because I don’t fully understand the needs of these disciplines, it’s hard for me to make calls on what needs to be addressed.

Solution: Defer to the experts.  I am surrounded by people who are so good at what they do, it hurts.  On some level, I have to trust that they won’t judge my ignorance and on another hope that they understand what an incredible resource their breath of knowledge makes them for the rest of us on their team and for their clients.  A politely asked question has gotten me very far.

Communicating Tasks

Because I don’t know the lingo, there are a few things that I’ve asked for that weren’t clear to the team member I was engaging.  In these cases, it’s difficult because I might have an idea of what I’m talking about or I might be playing telephone, either of which can be dangerous and counterproductive if I deliver incorrect information.

Solution: Three solutions here – cut and paste, using CC, and communication.  If I cut and paste the information that needs to be communicated, 9 times out of 10, everything that needs to be messaged gets across.  CCing the expert helps because they can weigh in if I got it wrong.  Communication is the only way to make sure that I’m giving our team members the right information; if I don’t know the answer or I’m not clear on something, I have to humble myself and ask.

Understanding Scope of Work

Because I’ve never done a lot of the work that I assign to my team, I have no idea how long any particular task should take.  I thought I was being smart when I asked the team members assigning a task how long the task they were requesting should take, but apparently there is some disconnect between the perceived amount of time a task takes and the reality.

Solution: Set expectations.  By letting everyone know that I am more than happy to try to push a task through, but that I’m not sure exactly what the turnaround time is, I at least let my team know that they might have to message a delivery date differently to a client.  Ideally, as time passes, I’ll have a better idea of what and how much my team can handle and can give harder delivery dates.

Figuring Out Which Details Are Important

There are a lot of moving parts in this business.  From bid management and quality score to URL structure and link bait, every single detail has some kind of impact on our client’s success.  Some of these activities are very, very important and if executed incorrectly can cost our clients thousands.  Some are bonus activities that may or may not provide a lift for our clients.  The key is to know which are important and which can be put on hold.  This knowledge comes with experience, which I’m gaining, but don’t have yet.

Solution: Ask for feedback with setting priorities.  I have to lean on other people’s knowledge base for this activity.  By learning what they feel is important and under what circumstances, I’m better able to make the call myself in the future.

The biggest take away for me during these last few months has been communication.  I couldn’t do my job without input from my colleagues.  Because I work with the best people in the world, getting this information is not only easy, it’s an enjoyable learning experience that makes doing my new job exciting.

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